North Carolina law makes it a crime for a person to threaten or harass another person under several statutes. These crimes are serious and some acts can be punished at the felony level. If you have been charged with a crime involving threats or harassment, contact Mr. Rosensteel as soon as possible so that he can begin preparing your best defense.
The crime of stalking requires more than one act of harassment as well as a reasonable fear for safety. A person who violates the stalking statute can be punished at either a misdemeanor or felony level. The statute G.S. 14-277.3A(c) provides that
A defendant is guilty of stalking if the defendant willfully on more than one occasion harasses another person without legal purpose or willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose and the defendant knows or should know that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to do any of the following:
(1) Fear for the person’s safety or the safety of the person’s immediate family or close personal associates.
(2) Suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment.
Typically, a violation of this statute is a Class A1 misdemeanor. However, if the person convicted of stalking has previously violated the stalking statute, he is guilty of a Class F felony. And if the person convicted of stalking commits the offense when there is a court order prohibiting the conduct described in the statute (i.e. a domestic violence protective order), he is guilty of a Class H felony.
The statute contains definitions that explain the required elements of the statute. They are:
(1) Course of conduct. – Two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, is in the presence of, or follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property.
(2) Harasses or harassment. – Knowing conduct, including written or printed communication or transmission, telephone, cellular, or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voice mail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose.
(3) Reasonable person. – A reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances.
(4) Substantial emotional distress. – Significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
The offense of communicating threats is a serious one and actually receives a more severe punishment than does simple assault. A simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor, while a violation of the communicating threats statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
There are several elements that must be proven to convict a person of communicating threats. The statute G.S. 14-277.1 requires that:
(1) He willfully threatens to physically injure the person or that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent or willfully threatens to damage the property of another;
(2) The threat is communicated to the other person, orally, in writing, or by any other means;
(3) The threat is made in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat is likely to be carried out; and
(4) The person threatened believes that the threat will be carried out.
North Carolina courts have further interpreted the statute in several ways. First, direct communication is not required to violate the communicating threats statute. The statute not only includes threats communicated orally and in writing, but also “by any other means.” Therefore, Jim can violate the communicating threats statute by telling Bob that he is going to hurt Joe, if Bob then tells Joe of this threat.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals did note that although an indirect threat satisfies the communication element of statute, the indirect nature of a threat might relate to the other elements of the crime like a reasonable person believing that the threat is likely to be carried out.
Also, conditional threats can violate the statute, so long as there is a reasonable likelihood of the condition occurring and the condition does not negate an intention to carry out the threat. For example, if Jim tells Bob not to come any closer or else Jim will punch Bob, he violates the communicating threats statute, so long as Jim does not have any legal reason for telling Bob not to come any closer.
Finally, even if the person threatened believes that he can contain an attempt to carry out the threat, so long as the person threatened believes the threat will be carried out, the fourth element is satisfied. So if Jim threatens Bob from the backseat of Bob’s police car, and Bob believes that Jim will carry out the threat if given the opportunity, Jim’s threat can violate the statute even if there are other officers present who can contain Jim’s attempt to carry out the threat.
Harassing Phone Calls
A person who makes harassing telephone calls is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor under G.S. 14-196. The statute makes it unlaw for a person
(1) To use in telephonic communications any words or language of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious or indecent character, nature or connotation;
(2) To use in telephonic communications any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person;
(3) To telephone another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing or embarrassing any person at the called number;
(4) To make a telephone call and fail to hang up or disengage the connection with the intent to disrupt the service of another;
(5) To telephone another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct or criminal conduct of the person telephoned or of any member of his family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass;
(6) To knowingly permit any telephone under his control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.
The statute specifies that the term “telephonic communications” includes communications made or received by an answering machine, fax machine or modem.
If you have been charged with stalking, communicating threats or making harassing phone calls, call a criminal defense attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.